RHAMM marks proliferative subpopulation of human colorectal cancer stem cells

Cancer Sci. 2023 Jul;114(7):2895-2906. doi: 10.1111/cas.15795. Epub 2023 Mar 31.


The cancer stem cell (CSC) theory features typically rare self-renewing subpopulations that reconstitute the heterogeneous tumor. Identification of molecules that characterize the features of CSCs is a key imperative for further understanding tumor heterogeneity and for the development of novel therapeutic strategies. However, the use of conventional markers of CSCs is still insufficient for the isolation of bona fide CSCs. We investigated organoids that are miniature forms of tumor tissues by reconstructing cellular diversity to identify specific markers to characterize CSCs in heterogeneous tumors. Here, we report that the receptor for hyaluronan-mediated motility (RHAMM) expresses in a subpopulation of CD44+ conventional human colorectal CSC fraction. Single-cell transcriptomics of organoids highlighted RHAMM-positive proliferative cells that revealed distinct characteristics among the various cell types. Prospectively isolated RHAMM+CD44+ cells from the human colorectal cancer tissues showed highly proliferative characteristics with a self-renewal ability in comparison with the other cancer cells. Furthermore, inhibition of RHAMM strongly suppressed organoid formation in vitro and inhibited tumor growth in vivo. Our findings suggest that RHAMM is a potential therapeutic target because it is a specific marker of the proliferative subpopulation within the conventional CSC fraction.

Keywords: CD44; RHAMM; cancer stem cells; colorectal cancer; organoid.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors* / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Hyaluronan Receptors